Clothing (also known as clothes and attire) is a collective term for
garments, items worn on the body.
Clothing can be made of textiles,
animal skin, or other thin sheets of materials put together. The
wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a
feature of nearly all human societies. The amount and type of clothing
worn depend on body type, social, and geographic considerations. Some
clothing can be gender-specific.
Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection
from the elements and can enhance safety during hazardous activities
such as hiking and cooking. It protects the wearer from rough
surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and
prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment.
Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions. Further, they can
provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials
away from the body.
Clothing also provides protection from ultraviolet
radiation. Wearing clothes is also a social norm, as being deprived of
clothing in front of others may be embarrassing, or not wearing
clothes in public to the extent that genitals, breasts or buttocks are
visible could be seen as indecent exposure.
1 Origin of clothing
4 Cultural aspects
4.2 Social status
5 Origin and history
5.1 First recorded use
5.2 Making clothing
6 Contemporary clothing
6.1 Western dress code
6.2 Spread of western styles
6.3 Ethnic and cultural heritage
6.4 Sport and activity
6.6 Future trends
7 Political issues
7.1 Working conditions in the garments industry
8 Life cycle
8.2 Laundry, ironing, storage
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Origin of clothing
Evolution of hair
Evolution of hair and
History of clothing
History of clothing and textiles
There is no easy way to determine when clothing was first developed,
but some information has been inferred by studying lice which
estimates the introduction of clothing at roughly 42,000–72,000
A baby wearing many items of winter clothing: headband, cap, fur-lined
coat, shawl and sweater
The most obvious function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the
wearer, by protecting the wearer from the elements. In hot climates,
clothing provides protection from sunburn or wind damage, while in
cold climates its thermal insulation properties are generally more
important. The shelter usually reduces the functional need for
clothing. For example, coats, hats, gloves, and other superficial
layers are normally removed when entering a warm home, particularly if
one is residing or sleeping there. Similarly, clothing has seasonal
and regional aspects, so that thinner materials and fewer layers of
clothing are generally worn in warmer seasons and regions than in
Clothing performs a range of social and cultural functions, such as
individual, occupational and gender differentiation, and social
status. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards
of modesty, religion, gender, and social status.
Clothing may also
function as a form of adornment and an expression of personal taste or
Clothing can and has in history been made from a very wide variety of
materials. Materials have ranged from leather and furs to woven
materials, to elaborate and exotic natural and synthetic fabrics. Not
all body coverings are regarded as clothing. Articles carried rather
than worn (such as purses), worn on a single part of the body and
easily removed (scarves), worn purely for adornment (jewelry), or
those that serve a function other than protection (eyeglasses), are
normally considered accessories rather than clothing, except for
Clothing protects against many things that might injure the uncovered
human body. Clothes protect people from the elements, including rain,
snow, wind, and other weather, as well as from the sun. However,
clothing that is too sheer, thin, small, tight, etc., offers less
protection. Clothes also reduce risk during activities such as work or
sport. Some clothing protects from specific environmental hazards,
such as insects, noxious chemicals, weather, weapons, and contact with
abrasive substances. Conversely, clothing may protect the environment
from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.
Humans have shown the extreme invention in devising clothing solutions
to environmental hazards. Examples include: space suits, air
conditioned clothing, armor, diving suits, swimsuits, bee-keeper gear,
motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and other pieces of
protective clothing. Meanwhile, the distinction between clothing and
protective equipment is not always clear-cut—since clothes designed
to be fashionable often have protective value and clothes designed for
function often consider fashion in their design. Wearing clothes also
has social implications. They cover parts of the body that social
norms require being covered, act as a form of adornment, and serve
other social purposes. Someone who lacks the means to procure
reasonable clothing due to poverty or affordability is sometimes said
to be scruffy, ragged, or shabby.
Although dissertations on clothing and its function appear from the
19th century as colonising countries dealt with new environments,
concerted scientific research into psycho-social, physiological and
other functions of clothing (e.g. protective, cartage) occurred in the
first half of the 20th century, with publications such as J. C.
Flügel's Psychology of Clothes in 1930, and Newburgh's seminal
Physiology of Heat Regulation and The Science of
Clothing in 1949.
By 1968, the field of environmental physiology had advanced and
expanded significantly, but the science of clothing in relation to
environmental physiology had changed little. While considerable
research has since occurred and the knowledge-base has grown
significantly, the main concepts remain unchanged, and indeed
Newburgh's book is still cited by contemporary authors, including
those attempting to develop thermoregulatory models of clothing
Former 3rd Duke of Fife wearing a traditional
Scottish kilt (1984)
US President and businesswoman
Ivanka Trump (right) along
with Japanese PM
Shinzō Abe wearing Western-style business suits as
per their gender, 2017
In most cultures, gender differentiation of clothing is considered
appropriate. The differences are in styles, colors, and fabrics.
In Western societies, skirts, dresses and high-heeled shoes are
usually seen as women's clothing, while neckties are usually seen as
Trousers were once seen as exclusively male clothing,
but can nowadays be worn by both genders. Male clothes are often more
practical (that is, they can function well under a wide variety of
situations), but a wider range of clothing styles are available for
females. Males are typically allowed to bare their chests in a greater
variety of public places. It is generally more or less acceptable for
a woman to wear clothing perceived as masculine, while the opposite is
seen as unusual.
In some cultures, sumptuary laws regulate what men and women are
required to wear.
Islam requires women to wear more modest forms of
attire, usually hijab. What qualifies as "modest" varies in different
Muslim societies. However, women are usually required to cover more of
their bodies than men are. Articles of clothing
Muslim women wear for
modesty range from the head-scarf to the burqa.
Men may sometimes choose to wear men's skirts such as togas or kilts,
especially on ceremonial occasions. Such garments were (in previous
times) often worn as normal daily clothing by men.
Clothing designed to be worn by either sex is called unisex clothing.
Unisex clothes, such as T-shirts, tends to be cut straighter to fit a
wider variety of bodies. The majority of unisex clothing styles have
started out as menswear, but some articles, like the fedora, were
originally worn by women.
Barong Tagalog made for a wedding ceremony.
Alim Khan's bemedaled robe sends a social message about his wealth,
status, and power.
In some societies, clothing may be used to indicate rank or status. In
ancient Rome, for example, only senators could wear garments dyed with
Tyrian purple. In traditional Hawaiian society, only high-ranking
chiefs could wear feather cloaks and palaoa, or carved whale teeth. In
China, before establishment of the republic, only the emperor could
wear yellow. History provides many examples of elaborate sumptuary
laws that regulated what people could wear. In societies without such
laws, which includes most modern societies, social status is instead
signaled by the purchase of rare or luxury items that are limited by
cost to those with wealth or status. In addition, peer pressure
influences clothing choice.
See also: Category:Religious vesture
Nicolas Trigault, in Ming-style Confucian hanfu, by Rubens.
Muslim men traditionally wear white robes and a cap during prayers
Religious clothing might be considered a special case of occupational
clothing. Sometimes it is worn only during the performance of
religious ceremonies. However, it may also be worn every day as a
marker for special religious status.
For example, Jains and
Muslim men wear unstitched cloth pieces when
performing religious ceremonies. The unstitched cloth signifies
unified and complete devotion to the task at hand, with no
digression. Sikhs wear a turban as it is a part of
The cleanliness of religious dresses in Eastern religions like
Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism,
Jainism is of paramount
importance since it indicates purity.
Clothing figures prominently in the
Bible where it appears in numerous
contexts, the more prominent ones being: the story of
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve who
made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves, Joseph's cloak, Judah
Mordecai and Esther. Furthermore, the priests officiating
in the Temple had very specific garments, the lack of which made one
liable to death.
The Quran says about husbands and wives, regarding clothing: "...They
are clothing/covering (Libaas) for you; and you for them" (chapter
Jewish ritual also requires rending of one's upper garment as a sign
of mourning. This practice is found in the
Bible when Jacob hears of
the apparent death of his son Joseph.
Origin and history
Main article: History of clothing
History of Western fashion
History of Western fashion and Category:History of clothing
First recorded use
According to archaeologists and anthropologists, the earliest clothing
likely consisted of fur, leather, leaves, or grass that were draped,
wrapped, or tied around the body. Knowledge of such clothing remains
inferential, since clothing materials deteriorate quickly compared to
stone, bone, shell and metal artifacts. Archeologists have identified
very early sewing needles of bone and ivory from about 30,000 BC,
found near Kostenki,
Russia in 1988. Dyed flax fibers that could
have been used in clothing have been found in a prehistoric cave in
the Republic of Georgia that date back to 36,000 BP.
Scientists are still debating when people started wearing clothes.
Ralf Kittler, Manfred Kayser and Mark Stoneking, anthropologists at
the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have conducted
a genetic analysis of human body lice that suggests clothing
originated quite recently, around 170,000 years ago.
Body lice is an
indicator of clothes-wearing, since most humans have sparse body hair,
and lice thus require human clothing to survive. Their research
suggests the invention of clothing may have coincided with the
northward migration of modern
Homo sapiens away from the warm climate
of Africa, thought to have begun between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.
However, a second group of researchers using similar genetic methods
estimate that clothing originated around 540,000 years ago  For
now, the date of the origin of clothing remains unresolved.
Garment industry, knitting, and weaving
Some human cultures, such as the various people of the Arctic Circle,
traditionally make their clothing entirely of prepared and decorated
furs and skins. Other cultures supplemented or replaced leather and
skins with cloth: woven, knitted, or twined from various animal and
vegetable fibers including wool, linen, cotton, silk, hemp, and ramie.
Although modern consumers may take the production of clothing for
granted, making fabric by hand is a tedious and labor-intensive
process involving fiber making, spinning, and weaving. The textile
industry was the first to be mechanized – with the powered
loom – during the Industrial Revolution.
Different cultures have evolved various ways of creating clothes out
of cloth. One approach simply involves draping the cloth. Many people
wore, and still wear, garments consisting of rectangles of cloth
wrapped to fit – for example, the dhoti for men and the sari
for women in the Indian subcontinent, the
Scottish kilt or the
Javanese sarong. The clothes may simply be tied up, as is the case of
the first two garments; or pins or belts hold the garments in place,
as in the case of the latter two. The precious cloth remains uncut,
and people of various sizes or the same person at different sizes can
wear the garment.
Another approach involves measuring, cutting, and sewing the cloth by
hand or with a sewing machine.
Clothing can be cut from a sewing
pattern and adjusted by a tailor to a person's measurements. An
adjustable sewing mannequin or dress form is used to create form
fitting clothing. Fabrics are expensive and efforts are made to use
every bit of the cloth rectangle in constructing the clothing. The
tailor may cut triangular pieces from one corner of the cloth, and
then add them elsewhere as gussets. Traditional European patterns for
men's shirts and women's chemises take this approach. These remnants
can also be reused to make patchwork hats, vests, and skirts.
Modern European fashion treats cloth much less conservatively,
typically cutting in such a way as to leave various odd-shaped cloth
remnants. Industrial sewing operations sell these as waste; home
sewers may turn them into quilts.
In the thousands of years that humans have spent constructing
clothing, they have created an astonishing array of styles, many of
which have been reconstructed from surviving garments, photos,
paintings, mosaics, etc., as well as from written descriptions.
Costume history serves as a source of inspiration to current fashion
designers, as well as a topic of professional interest to costumers
constructing for plays, films, television, and historical reenactment.
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Western dress codes
Western dress code
Main article: Western dress code
Western dress code
Western dress code has changed over the past 500+ years. The
mechanization of the textile industry made many varieties of cloth
widely available at affordable prices. Styles have changed, and the
availability of synthetic fabrics has changed the definition of
"stylish". In the latter half of the 20th century, blue jeans became
very popular, and are now worn to events that normally demand formal
Activewear has also become a large and growing market.
The licensing of designer names was pioneered by designers like Pierre
Cardin in the 1960s and has been a common practice within the fashion
industry from about the 1970s. Among the more popular include Marc
Jacobs and Gucci, named for
Marc Jacobs and Guccio
Spread of western styles
A tourist couple (top) and university students (bottom) in casual
clothes in USA.
By the early years of the 21st century, western clothing styles had,
to some extent, become international styles. This process began
hundreds of years earlier, during the periods of European colonialism.
The process of cultural dissemination has perpetuated over the
centuries as Western media corporations have penetrated markets
throughout the world, spreading Western culture and styles. Fast
fashion clothing has also become a global phenomenon. These garments
are less expensive, mass-produced Western clothing. Donated used
clothing from Western countries are also delivered to people in poor
countries by charity organizations.
Ethnic and cultural heritage
People may wear ethnic or national dress on special occasions or in
certain roles or occupations. For example, most Korean men and women
have adopted Western-style dress for daily wear, but still wear
traditional hanboks on special occasions, like weddings and cultural
holidays. Items of Western dress may also appear worn or accessorized
in distinctive, non-Western ways. A Tongan man may combine a used
T-shirt with a Tongan wrapped skirt, or tupenu.
Sport and activity
Activewear and Sportswear (fashion)
Most sports and physical activities are practiced wearing special
clothing, for practical, comfort or safety reasons. Common sportswear
garments include shorts, T-shirts, tennis shirts, leotards,
tracksuits, and trainers. Specialized garments include wet suits (for
swimming, diving or surfing), salopettes (for skiing) and leotards
(for gymnastics). Also, spandex materials are often used as base
layers to soak up sweat.
Spandex is also preferable for active sports
that require form fitting garments, such as volleyball, wrestling,
track & field, dance, gymnastics and swimming.
Fashion shows are often the source of the latest trends in clothing
Photo is of a model in a modern gown reflecting the current
fashion trend at a
Haute couture fashion show.
Fashion and 2010s in fashion
A diverse range of styles exist in fashion, varying by geography,
exposure to modern media, economic conditions, and ranging from
expensive haute couture to traditional garb, to thrift store grunge.
Fashion shows are events for designers to show off new and often
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The world of clothing is always changing, as new cultural influences
meet technological innovations. Researchers in scientific labs have
been developing prototypes for fabrics that can serve functional
purposes well beyond their traditional roles, for example, clothes
that can automatically adjust their temperature, repel bullets,
project images, and generate electricity. Some practical advances
already available to consumers are bullet-resistant garments made with
kevlar and stain-resistant fabrics that are coated with chemical
mixtures that reduce the absorption of liquids. New blends of Spandex
cotton blends allow for form fitting and stretching of closer fitting
mass produced patterns. New mesh materials allow for better
breathe-ability in shoes. New insulation fibers and batting make
lighter raiment that provide warmth in cold or wet weather, and recent
advances in coatings for fabrics or down also repel water.
Working conditions in the garments industry
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June
Garments factory in Bangladesh
Safety garb for women workers in Los Angeles, c. 1943, was designed to
prevent occupational accidents among female war workers.
Though mechanization transformed most aspects of human industry by the
mid-20th century, garment workers have continued to labor under
challenging conditions that demand repetitive manual labor.
Mass-produced clothing is often made in what are considered by some to
be sweatshops, typified by long work hours, lack of benefits, and lack
of worker representation. While most examples of such conditions are
found in developing countries, clothes made in industrialized nations
may also be manufactured similarly.
Coalitions of NGOs, designers (including Katharine Hamnett, American
Apparel, Veja, Quiksilver, eVocal, and Edun) and campaign groups like
Clean Clothes Campaign
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Institute for Global Labour
and Human Rights as well as textile and clothing trade unions have
sought to improve these conditions as much as possible by sponsoring
awareness-raising events, which draw the attention of both the media
and the general public to the workers.
Outsourcing production to low wage countries like Bangladesh, China,
Sri Lanka became possible when the Multi Fibre Agreement
(MFA) was abolished. The MFA, which placed quotas on textiles imports,
was deemed a protectionist measure. Although many
countries recognize treaties like the International Labour
Organization, which attempt to set standards for worker safety and
rights, many countries have made exceptions to certain parts of the
treaties or failed to thoroughly enforce them.
India for example has
not ratified sections 87 and 92 of the treaty.
Despite the strong reactions that "sweatshops" evoked among critics of
globalization, the production of textiles has functioned as a
consistent industry for developing nations providing work and wages,
whether construed as exploitative or not, to many thousands of people.
The use of animal fur in clothing dates to prehistoric times. It is
currently associated in developed countries with expensive, designer
clothing, although fur is still used by indigenous people in arctic
zones and higher elevations for its warmth and protection. Once
uncontroversial, it has recently been the focus of campaigns on the
grounds that campaigners consider it cruel and unnecessary. PETA,
along with other animal rights and animal liberation groups have
called attention to fur farming and other practices they consider
Clothing suffers assault both from within and without. The human body
sheds skin cells and body oils, and exudes sweat, urine, and feces.
From the outside, sun damage, moisture, abrasion, and dirt assault
garments. Fleas and lice can hide in seams. Worn clothing, if not
cleaned and refurbished, itches, becomes outworn, and loses
functionality (as when buttons fall off, seams come undone, fabrics
thin or tear, and zippers fail).
Often, people wear an item of clothing until it falls apart. Some
materials present problems. Cleaning leather is difficult, and bark
cloth (tapa) cannot be washed without dissolving it. Owners may patch
tears and rips, and brush off surface dirt, but materials like these
However, most clothing consists of cloth, and most cloth can be
laundered and mended (patching, darning, but compare felt).
Laundry, ironing, storage
Humans have developed many specialized methods for laundering, ranging
from early methods of pounding clothes against rocks in running
streams, to the latest in electronic washing machines and dry cleaning
(dissolving dirt in solvents other than water). Hot water washing
(boiling), chemical cleaning and ironing are all traditional methods
of sterilizing fabrics for hygiene purposes.
Many kinds of clothing are designed to be ironed before they are worn
to remove wrinkles. Most modern formal and semi-formal clothing is in
this category (for example, dress shirts and suits). Ironed clothes
are believed to look clean, fresh, and neat. Much contemporary casual
clothing is made of knit materials that do not readily wrinkle, and do
not require ironing. Some clothing is permanent press, having been
treated with a coating (such as polytetrafluoroethylene) that
suppresses wrinkles and creates a smooth appearance without ironing.
Once clothes have been laundered and possibly ironed, they are usually
hung on clothes hangers or folded, to keep them fresh until they are
worn. Clothes are folded to allow them to be stored compactly, to
prevent creasing, to preserve creases or to present them in a more
pleasing manner, for instance when they are put on sale in stores.
Main article: Permanent press
A resin used for making non-wrinkle shirts releases formaldehyde,
which could cause contact dermatitis for some people; no disclosure
requirements exist, and in 2008 the U.S. Government Accountability
Office tested formaldehyde in clothing and found that generally the
highest levels were in non-wrinkle shirts and pants. In 1999, a
study of the effect of washing on the formaldehyde levels found that
after 6 months after washing, 7 of 27 shirts had levels in excess of
75 ppm, which is a safe limit for direct skin exposure.
In past times, mending was an art. A meticulous tailor or seamstress
could mend rips with thread raveled from hems and seam edges so
skillfully that the tear was practically invisible. When the raw
material – cloth – was worth more than labor, it made
sense to expend labor in saving it. Today clothing is considered a
consumable item. Mass-manufactured clothing is less expensive than the
labor required to repair it. Many people buy a new piece of clothing
rather than spend time mending. The thrifty still replace zippers and
buttons and sew up ripped hems.
Used, unwearable clothing can be repurposed for quilts, rags, rugs,
bandages, and many other household uses. It can also be recycled into
paper. In Western societies, used clothing is often thrown out or
donated to charity (such as through a clothing bin). It is also sold
to consignment shops, dress agencies, flea markets, and in online
auctions. Used clothing is also often collected on an industrial scale
to be sorted and shipped for re-use in poorer countries. Globally,
used clothes are worth $4 billion with the US as the leading
exporter at $575 million.
There are many concerns about the life cycle of synthetics, which come
primarily from petrochemicals.[weasel words] Unlike natural
fibers, their source is not renewable and they are not
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Hosiery Museum (English language)
Molecular Evolution of Pediculus humanus and the Origin of
Ralf Kittler, Manfred Kayser and Mark Stoneking (.
Cornell Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, History (HEARTH)
Historical clothing • Traditional and national clothing
High water pants
Little black dress
Red Sea rig
Square leg suit
History of clothing